PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The eyes of the golf world are on Oregon this week as the controversial LIV Golf tournament comes to Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club starting on Thursday. Lawmakers from Washington D.C. to farmers in North Plains have come out against the tournament’s first stop in the United States.
The unconventional golf tournament begins Thursday with play going through Saturday.
All opposition stems from the funding for the tournament, coming from Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund and the nation’s history of human rights abuses and incidents on American soil, tied to the kingdom.
American journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in Oct. 2018, in what U.S. Intelligence reports say was an assassination ordered by the Saudi Crown Prince. In March, 81 people were publicly executed in a recent example of the regime’s brutality. Additionally, 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were citizens of Saudi Arabia.
Locally, in 2016 when 15-year-old Fallon Smart was killed in a hit and run, her suspected killer was arrested, made a $100,000 bail, and the U.S. Government believes he was whisked away to Saudi Arabia.
“It’s very definitely an attack on sovereignty and a real disdain for this country and what this country stands for and for our justice system,” said Andy McNiece, a former member at Pumpkin Ridge.
McNiece was a member at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course, where the LIV tournament will be held, and renounced his membership once he heard about the tournament.
McNiece, who was on the board before leaving, says he learned about the tournament in an email just before a board meeting. The meeting’s agenda was tossed as the board peppered questions about the tournament.
McNiece says Pumpkin Ridge Owner, Escalante Golf “didn’t really respond” to questions over the morality of the Saudi-financed tournament besides saying “look at the new roof” and other improvements at the course McNiece feels were long overdue.
“They sold a little bit of their honor, a little bit of the club’s honor, and in a strange way they sold some of my honor in what they’ve done with this,” said McNiece.
McNiece said the club had already gone downhill since Escalante took over in 2015 with rapid staff turnover and becoming less responsive to member concerns. The board is advisory, so McNiece says Escalante had no obligation to run the tournament by members.
Outside of the club confines, just across Old Pumpkin Ridge Road, the opposition is just as common. Sunstone Ranch Owner Ricky Freeman says he will be using his land to host protestors and give a voice to the voiceless.
“It’s not so much a case of interrupting them as much as letting them know that their voices aren’t silent and if that’s an interruption to them, I guess it is,” Freeman said.
Freeman’s opposition is similar to McNiece’s. His property sits just north of the Golf Course’s entrance and directly across the street from the pin on the 18th hole.
“If you go over there and you buy a ticket and you support this system in any way or this LIV Golf Tournament, then you’re going to be supporting the people that did that,” Freeman said.